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Yet to be earned

Artist: Chu May Paing

Year: 2020

Yet to be earned is a short narrative film capturing a series of old family photographs from the artist’s archive. It presents an audio-visual narrative about one family but broaches the concept of “earned kinship”—that is, something that has nothing to do with blood nor with relatedness but something that has to be earned.

In the background, the artist’s mother is heard reciting the events in her relationship with her husband who left her and their three children more than twenty-three years ago. Her narrative is the only medium that connects the artist and her father as two people with a biological relationship and a core way the artist came to understand herself and the bittersweet events that happened between her mother and father in a broader life context. In the story, her mother recites the cases of her father’s infidelities prior to the artist’s birth. The arguments persisted between them day by day. Her father argued that he would not be cheating if they had a son; he wanted a son so badly he had to look for him elsewhere. (They already had two daughters at that point.) They both agreed to try for another child, hopefully this time a boy. As Sarah Pinto suggests, “The work of kinship… may happen at points of breakdown.” And so, the artist was born eleven years after her second sister at a point of rupture in her parents’ at-the-time-15-year-long marriage. However, the plan did not succeed since the artist is a girl. A few years after she was born, her father left all of them: her mother, her two sisters, and her. He never showed up again in their lives.


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